Standard Bank Group is the largest African banking group by assets; US$150bn, and an employee headcount of 55,000. With a history of 155 years, the business is a client-centered, digitally enabled financial organization. It has a presence in 20 countries on the African continent, building its first franchise in the sub-Saharan region 30 years ago.
Today, Standard Bank offers a range of banking and related financial services to facilitate growth, diversification and development in Africa; and maintains a strategic partnership with the largest bank in the world, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), who is a 20% shareholder in the group.
Standard Bank customers were looking for faster and more convenient ways to manage their forex and move money cross border. The business’ knowledge and experience of working in Africa told it that South Africans are generally aware of and responsive to the volatility of the South African Rand and foreign exchange rates (FX) – and that it is common practice for funds to be moved offshore regularly. At the same time, the popularity of disruptive fintechs was on the rise, who were gaining market share. The bank needed a way to respond to each of these immediate challenges, and create a strategy to regain lost ground and move forward in the new digital era.
“The partnership with Currencycloud has been vital to the success of Shyft. Currencycloud really understood the challenges Standard Bank were facing and have delivered a solution that improved our speed to market, whilst reducing costs and delivering operational efficiency
“As we continue to grow the Shyft solution for our customers, we are confident that Currencycloud will continue to help find solutions to our customer challenges and deliver value to Standard Bank South Africa.”
Arno Von Helden, Executive Head: Forex Solutions, Standard Bank
A business of Standard Bank’s capabilities could have easily built a proprietary FX and payments platform from the ground up to respond to the challenges and risks to its market share. However, Currencyloud’s payment platform and APIs offered many of the components and necessary infrastructure to build the new product quickly and easily. For example, the Currencycloud Account enables clients to hold currencies (EUR, USD, GBP and AUD) offshore and the global banking network provides access to local payment schemes for more efficient payments processing.
Standard Bank appreciated Currencycloud’s drive to understand their business issues and find a real solution that was future proof and applicable to other applications within the bank, if necessary. Plus, the speed to market that working with Currencycloud would afford, which was one of the key differentiators enjoyed by the bank’s fintech competitors, was a factor and one that Standard Bank needed in their arsenal.
The entire project was delivered on a high availability cloud hosting solution provided by Amazon Web Services. With key features including private encryption, multiple databases for 99.9999% availability, and highly secure segregated environments, the solution delivered the reliability and assurance Standard Bank needs. And with system health constantly monitored, the company is able to maintain an optimum cost to performance ratio at all times.
The new payment product – Shyft – was built and implemented in record time. The beta version was up and running in less than three months and in the hands of end users just weeks later.
Shyft has been a remarkable success. To date, the app has delivered over US$100mn in foreign exchange purchases and processed payments in excess of US$70mn in various foreign currencies, and deployed almost 10,000 virtual and physical cards. At the time of writing, the app has over 24,000 users, and is growing fast.
Standard Bank’s early strategy was to offer Shyft to a select group of clients until the product and supporting team was fully bedded in. Now, with a base of delighted customers a burgeoning reputation within the bank, and having won some early payments industry awards, the team are looking to expand upon this success. Standard Bank and Currencycloud are actively exploring further collaborations, to add new features and take the underlying product into new markets and business segments.